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Regional nurse team honored for stroke care

Assuring stroke victims receive the right care, and fast, is the work of this group.

A group of 21 Kaiser Permanente Northern California nurses known as the Stroke Coordinator Team recently received a national award from the American Association of Neurosciences Nurses for outstanding patient stroke care.

The 21 stroke coordinators who oversee emergency processes that ensure patients with stroke symptoms are treated as fast as possible with either clot-busting drugs or surgical intervention are the first in the nation to receive the new Team Harmony Award.

“The main thing about our stroke coordinators is their passion for the work in making sure we are doing the right thing at the right time for our patients who come in with stroke symptoms,” said Pat Zrelak, regional clinical practice consultant for stroke, who oversees the work of the Stroke Coordinator Team.

The team will be honored at the association’s yearly conference in March. The award is based on the team’s work to improve patient outcomes, education and professional development of team members, and leadership within their hospitals.

Zrelak explained that all 21 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California  are certified stroke centers that can administer drugs to treat an ischemic stroke that occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed, usually by a clot.

“Kaiser Permanente is a leader in stroke care because of the work Pat and our stroke coordinators do to reduce mortality and morbidity every day.” — Elizabeth Scruth

Two of the 21 hospitals, the Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center and the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center, are comprehensive stroke centers that can treat ischemic stroke as well as hemorrhagic stroke that involves a bleed into the brain.

“Kaiser Permanente is a leader in stroke care because of the work Pat and our stroke coordinators do to reduce mortality and morbidity every day,” said Elizabeth Scruth, executive director of Clinical Quality Programs, Data Analytics and Tele Critical Care for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California stroke coordinators are administrators who help educate clinicians “so they are qualified to take care of patients with stroke and make sure the staff are getting the teaching they need to do that,” said Zrelak.

Stroke coordinators also do community outreach to educate people on the signs and symptoms of stroke, such as sudden problems with balance, numbness or loss of movement in the face, arm or leg, and trouble speaking, to name just a few.

“And because Kaiser Permanente uses standardized processes, we have some of the best ‘door to needle’ times in the country, meaning patients are treated with clot-busting drugs very quickly after they come to the emergency room,” Zrelak said.

When a patient arrives by ambulance, a stroke team meets it at the door. An emergency medical physician on site consults with a neurologist by video to determine the best mode of care.

“It really is a team approach, and we are proud of our work that led to receiving this award,” said Zrelak.


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